Updated: May 24, 2019
Where men are going and where women have been.
Research has demonstrated that men are more likely to be judged on their potential, and women through their past accomplishments. Meaning that men only need to look the part before achieving a promotion, whereas women need to be able to demonstrate it. Hardly the best selection process to determine the right person for the job.
It is likely that these thought processes hark back to a time when a husband was selected based upon his ability to support the family, and a wife was deemed suitable if she had stayed chaste. These ideas are both outdated and unhelpful to business.
Before anyone gets too annoyed at the men, it's important to note that both men and women exhibited these preferences. This is not a bad man, good women gig, rather a societal problem with how we view women generally. One that we all need to address our thinking on (and yes I definitely include myself in this).
So what do we do about it? First, as ever, we need to identify what the problem is. I think its that women are less likely to achieve leadership positions as they need to demonstrate their ability to undertake a role before being given authority and status.
It's highly likely that women are going to need to address this in an interview situation. These are my suggestions on how to do that.
1. Make a clear point of showing how you have demonstrated the skills required. Where you are unable to do this in your role, give examples outside of the workplace. Volunteer, manage up, join a team. What matters is that you can demonstrate that you have the required skills set, all the better if you have been proactive in learning it.
2. Create a picture of the leader you will be. If the research tells us women are less likely to be seen for their potential, we need to work harder to help interviewers visualise that potential. Find ways to craft that image for them, sell yourself as someone who can move things forward.
Of course, we can look at this as merely a bad situation, which it is. However, it can be more than that; we can use it to develop our skills in selling, leadership, strategy. By being forced to think about these areas and develop and work on them, there is a distinct possibility that we will develop a more precise focus. Its this focus that will turn our obstacles into advantages.